Quick Bites from Pender

Sea Asparagus Gomaae

In Did You Know, Recipes on June 28, 2010 at 5:01 am


Salicornia Virginica is a small, salt tolerant plant that thrives across the shorelines, wetlands and salt marshes of North America.  Known by a number of names –including samphire, pickleweed and sea asparagus — this nutrient-rich green vegetable adds a not-too-salty crunch when served cold in sushi, or hot alongside a grilled steak.

Plus, if you know where to find it, it’s free.  Shazzaam!  Take that global marketplace.


A closely related plant, Salicornia Europaea, was widely cultivated in 16th Century Elizabethan England as a source of soda ash.  Immigrant Venetian glassmakers used the sodium-rich ashes of the burned plant to produce their clear Cristallo glass, earning the plant the name glasswort.  Prior to their arrival, it was said that the plant “hath no name in English.”

Somewhere along the line, they started eating it — Pickled Samphire is a long-standing bar snack in Norfolk — and now it looks like the rest of us may catch on to it too.  This stuff is tasty!


Gomaae is a Japanese salad/side dish that basically translates as “sesame dressing.”  Spinach is the most popular gomaae here in North America, but there’s nothing saying I can’t make my own version from the food I forage from the shore!

As for the sunflower sprouts and carrot — well, they add a fresh bite and some contrasting colour.  You may choose something different.  Let’s take a moment to come up with some other accompaniments for the sea asparagus:

  • red pepper and cucumber
  • shaved red onion and bean sprouts
  • blanched potato and diced tomato
  • smoked tofu and grated radish

What’s your Sea Asparagus Gomaae match up?


Sea Asparagus & Sunflower Sprout Gomaae
Yield:  4 small servings

Sea Asparagus (Samphire) 2 handfuls
Sunflower Sprouts 1 handful
Carrot, julienned 1 handful
Sesame Seeds ¼ C 60 ml
Sugar 3 t 15 ml
Soya Sauce 1½ T 25 ml
Sake 2 T 30 ml

C=cup        t=teaspoon       T=tablespoon            ml=millilitres

Bring a large pot of UNSALTED water to the boil.   Fill a large bowl with cold water and ice.

Add the sea asparagus to the boiling and cook until tender crisp, about 2-3 minutes.  Quickly remove with tongs and immerse in the ice water to halt the cooking and preserve the bright green colour.  Once cool, gently roll the sea asparagus in a clean towel.  Squeeze gently and set aside to dry.

Grind the sesame seeds to a paste in a spice/coffee grinder or mortar and pestle.  Dissolve the sugar in 1 tablespoon of very hot water.  In a small bowl, combine the sesame paste, sugar, soya sauce and sake.

Toss the sea asparagus, sunflower sprouts and carrot with a small amount of dressing in a bowl.   To serve, pile a small amount of the salad on each plate and drizzle with additional sesame dressing.  Garnish with sesame seeds.

Leftover dressing will keep, covered, in the fridge for up to 5 days.


  1. Hey Therese,
    This looks sooooo good. Next time I visit I want you to take me foraging.

  2. I have never had sea asparagus but I’m definitely intrigued! Oh, and the use of “shazaam” in this post is rather genius 🙂

  3. Love this…Perfect dish!

  4. Hi, Theresa. What an inspired post! You are too clever for N. and S. Pender – and all the Gulf Islands combined. I love the idea of sea asparagu with the gomae twist.

    However, I was pleased to come across your writing in “Island Tides” now, too. Good for you and good for the local readers.



    • Thank so much Dan! I am having a great time doing all this writing and creating…I also have a regular Wild Food article in Avid Magazine (Pender`s local Art`s mag), as well as a monthly food article in False Creek this Week.

      Now I`ll never have to stop talking about food!

  5. I loved reading about these, and now I’m hoping to find them in Seattle when we’re there next summer. Any happy hunting grounds in that area that you know of?

    • Ruby,

      I don`t know any specific foraging areas around Seattle, but you`re looking for undisturbed beaches, salt marshes and wetlands. Perhaps try asking online (foodbuzz, chowhound, etc.)…Seattle foodies are bound to answer your call with their hints on specific spots!

  6. Gorgeous! I love the fact that you picked them yourself. I can remember my parents stopping by the side of the road to get watercress and slumping down in the back seat so passing cars couldn’t see me in my embarrassment. Now that I’m an adult and cook, I wish I could find some myself!

    • I guess we pretty much turn into our parents…I remember foraging for all sorts of food with my mom…especially berries…we were out picking almost every weekend with gallon ice cream buckets hanging around our necks!

  7. Hi Theresa, I enjoy making gomaae too but would have never thought of Sea Asparagus! 🙂 I’ve never cooked with it but I’ve seen it on Chopped (Food TV) as a challenge ingredient. How wonderful that you can forage this freely!

  8. I do the food shopping for a culinary school by me in Long Island and these were recently on the menu! I had the hardest time finding them, even online. We ended up substituting regular asparagus. I’ve never had sea asparagus but they look so interesting! Thanks for all of the info!

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